I have heard a lot of non-Buddhists specifically Christians state that they do not practice Yoga or condone any Christian to take yoga because of the religious connotations that yoga has with its mantras. I have heard that the mantras are contrary to the Christian Beliefs and therefore should be avoided at all costs. Those who have mentioned such statements fear that Yoga condones worshiping another god or gods which is clearly against one of the Ten Commandments that state “You shall worship No Other God but Me”.
I am a believer and follower of Jesus Christ and I am also an AVID Yoga practitioner and teacher. I do not believe that Yoga goes against my beliefs. On the contrary, it enhances my practice and brings me closer to My HIGHER POWER. God did not want religion. He detests empty traditions. What he wishes is a RELATIONSHIP. Worship and Praise. This is what our Higher Power seeks. We are to submit ourselves to HIM and become one with the Universe, everything and everyone around us as the Creation that we are. Does that mean we need to agree with everyone? NO. What we need to recognize is that we are ONE. We are darkness and we are light. Some are in mostly in the dark and that is the path they seek. Some of us seek the light and continue to walk in that path. We are to have compassion of others in their present form and pray that those living in darkness find the light. But I digress. Why do I say that YOGA and its mantras is for all religions including Christianity. Look at the following information I found on this YouTUBE link: http://youtu.be/CNnpIfgBI24. It lists the lyrics as the following:
Tat savitur varenyam
bhargo devasva dhimahi.
Dhiyo yo nah pracodayat.
Then it goes on to further explaining the Mantra as this:
‘Gayatri Mantra’, the ultimate Vedic prayer to awaken the intellectual powers of a person, first found its reference in the ‘Vedas’ believed to be the storehouse of all Divine Knowledge and the most ancient scriptures known to mankind. The universal prayer is addressed to the Sun God, addressed as ‘Savitha’ as the Life-Giver on Earth. Goddess Gayatri or Annapurna is believed to be the Mother-God that animates all Life. Considered to be the essence of the Vedas, Gayatri Mantra fosters and hones the knowledge-yielding faculty of a person. The four ‘mahavakyas’ or ultimate sentences of Gayatri Mantra, is a sacred mantra that demonstrates the unity that underlies multiplicity and manifoldness in creation.
The essence of the Mantra can be stated as follows – ‘Oh God! Thou art the Giver of Life, Remover of pain and sorrow, The Bestower of happiness, Oh! Creator of the Universe, May we receive thy supreme sin-destroying light, May Thou guide our intellect in the right direction.’
The individual words and characters of the Mantra have a meaning of their own than can be defined as follows:
Om: The primeval sound that represents Brahma,
Bhur: The physical world that embodies the vital spiritual energy or ‘Pran’,
Bhuvah: The mental world and destroyer of all sufferings,
Swaha: The celestial and spiritual world that embodies happiness,
Tat: That or God, referring to transcendental Paramatma (Ultimate Spirit),
Savithur: The Bright Sun or the Creator and Preserver of World,
Varenyam: Best or most adorable,
Bhargo: Destroyer of all sins,
Devasya: Divine Deity or Supreme Lord,
Dheemahi: We meditate upon and take in,
Dhiyo: The Intellect,
Yo: The Light,
Prachodayath: Inspire or Enlighten.
Thus, the Gayatri Mantra can be translated as follows:
We meditate on the glory of the Creator;
Who has created the Universe;
Who is worthy of Worship;
Who is the embodiment of Knowledge and Light;
Who is the remover of all Sin and Ignorance;
May He enlighten our Intellect.
Thus, we can say that Gayatri Mantra basically consists of three parts:
2. Meditation, and
While chanting the mantra, we first praise the God or the Divine Power, meditate upon it in all reverence and then finally pray or make an appeal to the God awaken and strengthen the intellectual powers of a person. The Mantra is said to be the embodiment of all deities and is certainly not associated with any particular religion or sect, time, place or person. While Om, Bhuh, Bhuvah, Swaha, Thath, Savithur, Varenyam, Bhargo and Devasya are said to be its nine colors or praise of the Divine, Dheemahi is related to meditation and Dhiyo, Yo, Nah and Prachodayaath are said to be the parts of the prayer aspects of the mantra.
‘Gayatri’ is not actually the Goddess, which sounds surprising but she is held in equal reverence because she is the mother of the Vedas or Divine Knowledge. The other two forms of Gayatri are Savitri and Saraswathi and these three are said to be present in everyone, in which – Gayatri is said to be the one to control the senses of a person, Savitri controls the Prana or the Life Force of a person and Saraswathi controls Speech of a person. Thus, the three together represent the purity in thought, word, and deed. In the same order, Gayatri is said to enhance one’s intelligence and intuition by recitation of the mantra, Savitri is said to protect the life forces and Saraswati is said to guard one’s speech.
The deity Gayatri is said to be ‘Panchamukhi’ (having five faces). These five faces are actually the five senses guarded by her or alternatively, five ‘pranas’ of life forces protected by her as Savitri. The concept of Savitri being the deity to control life forces stems from the legend that Savitri was the devoted wife who was so pure and loved her husband so much that she succeeded in bringing her husband back to life by forcing Yama, the God of Death, to return his ‘Prana’ or Life Force. It is said that Gayatri Mantra acts as a third eye of a person that opens up a whole new world of spiritual realization and attaining Brahma.
What are you thoughts after reading the history and the explanation? A little better or still resistant.
Well, I cant speak for anyone but as I mentioned before, Yoga has really caused me to become more spiritual enlightened. This prayer may sound like it is only suitable for Hindus or Buddhists. But the translation is clearly praising your Higher Power regardless of who or what you call it. Creator: replace it with God or Allah, HeSham, whatever. Non Christians believe in the Almighty Creator. Regardless of the all the confusing details, we all believe in a simple basic concept: there is a Higher Power that created the Universe and us as well. We are one with the Universe and with each other. Since we have been created by a Creator, he is inside of ALL of us whether we accept it or not.
We, humans, can sometimes be so blind to what our religion or lack of religion states. One human being is not more privileged to life than the other. Let us look at the Dalai Lama and Sister Teresa. Both clearly represent two different religions. However both made it their mission to Spread Love to the World with the words, actions and life. Dalai Lama respected her. It has been documented that the Dalai Lama bowed in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary out of respect. Did that mean that he no longer respecedt his own religion? NO!! Respect for another human being and their differences is showing PURE LOVE. Just as Jesus did when the Samaritans were the HATED people of his day. LOVE not ignorance.
What these mantras are sharing to me is how my Higher Power wishes for me to have a greater relationship with me and UNDERSTANDING of him; to grow and learn from others to embrace them as my brothers and accepting them as a human being. That does not mean I need to condone their sinful nature but recognize it as I recognize my own sinful nature. I am to pray not only for my enlightenment but also for theirs. God will handle the rest. I am just to pray not control.
Therefore, although the origins of the Yogic mantras may be Hindu. That does not mean that it can not be changed to be acceptable for your religion. The meaning and the purpose is the same. We are to serve and unite with our Higher Power. I don’t know about anyone but I do not believe God would disallow you entrance into Paradise because you were Catholic vs. Protestant or Muslim vs. Jewish.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qj3OadSnMo4: By the way, I happen to like this version better of the Gayatri Mantra. Deva Premal sings others too even one about Jesus.